Battle of Vittorio Veneto

Battle of Vittorio Veneto
Part of the Italian Front of World War I

Map of the battle
Date24 October – 4 November 1918
Location45°57′21″N 12°20′49″E / 45.95583°N 12.34694°E / 45.95583; 12.34694

Italian victory[1][2][3]

United Kingdom
United States
Commanders and leaders
Armando Diaz AD. Joseph August
Alexander von Krobatin
Svetozar Boroević

57 divisions:[7]

  • 1,415,000 in 52 divisions
  • ≈40,000 in 3 divisions
  • 25,000 in 2 divisions
  • 1,200 in one regiment

Total : 1,486,200

7,700 guns
600 aircraft

61 divisions:

  • 1,800,000[7]
    6,145 guns
Casualties and losses


  • 7,000 killed
  • 23,000 wounded
  • 8,000 missing and captured
30,000 killed
50,000 wounded
448,000 captured
5,000+ artillery pieces captured

The Battle of Vittorio Veneto was fought from 24 October to 3 November 1918 (with an armistice taking effect 24 hours later) near Vittorio Veneto on the Italian Front during World War I. After having thoroughly defeated Austro-Hungarian troops during the defensive Battle of the Piave River, the Italian army launched a great counter-offensive: the Italian victory[1][2][9] marked the end of the war on the Italian Front, secured the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and contributed to the end of the First World War just one week later.[4] On 1 November, the new Hungarian government of Count Mihály Károlyi decided to recall all of the troops, who were conscripted from the territory of Kingdom of Hungary, which was a major blow for the Habsburgs' armies.[10] The battle led to the capture of over 5,000 artillery pieces and over 350,000 Austro-Hungarian troops, including 120,000 Germans, 83,000 Czechs and Slovaks, 60,000 South Slavs, 40,000 Poles, several tens of thousands of Romanians and Ukrainians, and 7,000 Austro-Hungarian loyalist Italians and Friulians.[11][12]

Name edit

When the battle was fought in November 1918, the nearby city was called simply Vittorio,[13] named in 1866 for Vittorio Emanuele II, monarch from 1861 of the newly created Kingdom of Italy. The engagement, the last major battle in the war (1915–1918) between Italy and Austria-Hungary, was generally referred to as the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, i.e. 'Vittorio in the Veneto region'. The city's name was officially changed to Vittorio Veneto in July 1923.[14]

Background edit

Armando Diaz

During the Battle of Caporetto,[15] from 24 October to 9 November 1917, the Italian Army suffered over 300,000 casualties (dead, injured and captured) and was forced to withdraw, causing the replacement of the Italian Supreme Commander Luigi Cadorna with General Armando Diaz. Diaz reorganized the troops, blocked the enemy advance by implementing defense in depth and mobile reserves, and stabilized the front-line around the Piave River.[citation needed]

In June 1918, a large Austro-Hungarian offensive, aimed at breaking the Piave River defensive line and delivering a decisive blow to the Italian Army, was launched. The Austro-Hungarian Army tried on one side to force the Tonale Pass and enter Lombardy, and on the other side to make two converging thrusts into central Venetia, the first one southeastward from the Trentino, and the second one southwestward across the lower Piave. The whole offensive, which became known as the Battle of the Piave River ended in a heavy defeat for the imperial army, with the Austro-Hungarians losing 11,643 killed, 80,852 wounded and 25,547 captured.[16]

After the Battle of the Piave, General Armando Diaz abstained from offensive action until Italy would be ready to strike with success assured.[17] In the offensive he planned, three of the five armies lining the front from the Monte Grappa sector to the Adriatic end of the Piave were to drive across the river toward Vittorio Veneto, so as to cut communications between the two Austrian armies opposing them.[citation needed]

Allied forces totaled 57 infantry divisions, including 52 Italian, three British (23rd, 7th and 48th), two French (23rd and 24th), and the 332nd US Infantry Regiment, along with supporting arms. The Austro-Hungarian army had 46 infantry divisions and six cavalry divisions, but both sides were ravaged by influenza and malaria and the Austrians only had 6,030 guns to 7,700 Allied.[18][unreliable source?]

The Italian armies in the mountains were merely to hold the front line and follow up the enemy when it retreated. The task of opening the attack and taking on the strongest positions fell to the Fourth Army (Lieutenant-General Gaetano Giardino) on the Grappa. The Twelfth Army, consisting of one French and three Italian divisions, was commanded by the English-speaking Lieutenant-General Enrico Caviglia and he had under his command the Tenth Army (Lieutenant-General Lord Cavan) to protect his right flank. Lord Cavan's army consisted of two British and two Italian divisions, and they too were expected to cross the Piave by breaking the Austrian defenses at Papadopoli Island. The Third Army was simply to hold the lower Piave and cross the river when enemy resistance was broken. The Ninth Army, which contained two Italian divisions as well as the 6th Czechoslovak Division (consisting of former POWs captured by the Italians),[19] and the 332nd US Infantry Regiment, was held in reserve. The Allies had 600 aircraft (93 Anglo-French, including four RAF squadrons) to gain complete air superiority in the final offensive.[20]

Order of battle edit

The Allies:[21][22](Armando Diaz)


Prelude edit

As night fell on 23 October, leading elements of Lord Cavan's Tenth Army were to force a crossing at a point where there were a number of islands. Cavan had decided to seize the largest of these – the Grave di Papadopoli – in preparation for the full-scale assault on the far bank. The plan was for two battalions from the 22nd Brigade of the British 7th Division to occupy the northern half of Papadopoli, while the Italian 11th Corps took the southern half.[26] The British troops detailed for the night attack were the 2/1 Honourable Artillery Company (an infantry battalion despite the title) and the 1/ Royal Welch Fusiliers. These troops were helpless to negotiate such a torrent as the Piave and relied upon boats propelled by the 18th Pontieri under the command of Captain Odini of the Italian engineers. On the misty night of the 23rd, the Italians rowed the British forces across with a calm assurance and skill which amazed many of those who were more frightened of drowning than of fighting the Austrians. For the sake of silence, the HAC used only their bayonets until the alarm was raised, and soon seized their half of the island. The Italian assault on the south of Papadopoli was driven off by heavy machine-gun fire. Nevertheless, the Austrians surrendered the island by the end of the night.[27]

Battle edit

Italian machine gunners on Monte Grappa

In the early hours of 24 October, the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Caporetto, Comando Supremo launched the splintering[clarification needed] attack on Monte Grappa designed to draw in the Austro-Hungarian reserves. At 03:00 the right wing of the Italian Fourth Army began a barrage to give time for its men to move into position. At 05:00 the rest of the artillery joined in. The infantry began to struggle up the steep slopes and secondary peaks which the Austrians had held. The flooding of the Piave prevented two of the three central armies from advancing simultaneously with the third; but the latter, under the command of Earl Cavan, after seizing Papadopoli Island farther downstream, won a foothold on the left bank of the river on 27 October. In the evening, the Allies had covered so much ground that they were over-extended and vulnerable to a counter-attack. The Italian Tenth Army maintained its ground and established a bridgehead 2.5 miles (4.0 km) deep and 5 miles (8.0 km) broad. The British captured 3,520 prisoners and 54 guns.[28] Svetozar Boroević von Bojna, the Austro-Hungarian commander, ordered a counter-attack on the Italian bridgeheads on the same day, but his troops refused to obey orders, a problem confronting the Austrians from that time on, and the counter-attack failed.[29] The first days of the battle involved heavy artillery dueling between the two sides, which were fairly evenly matched in firepower, with the Italians possessing 7,700 guns to the Austro-Hungarians' 6,000. From 24 to 31 October alone, the Italian artillery fired 2,446,000 shells.[30]

On 28 October, a group of Czechs declared Bohemia's independence from Austria-Hungary. The next day, another group purporting to represent the eventual South Slavs proclaimed their independence, and on 31 October, the Hungarian Parliament proclaimed their withdrawal from the union, officially dissolving the Austro-Hungarian state. On 28 October, under these new political and military conditions, the Austro-Hungarian high command ordered a general retreat.[citation needed]

On 29 October, the Italian Eighth Army pushed on towards Vittorio Veneto, which its advance guard of lancers and Bersaglieri cyclists entered on the morning of the 30th. The Italian Third Army forced a crossing of the lower Piave, while raids in the mountains disclosed that the Austrians were withdrawing there. Reserves, including the 332nd US Infantry Regiment poured over the Piave behind the Italian Tenth Army.[citation needed]

Vittorio Veneto was seized the next day by the Italian Eighth Army, which was already pushing on to the Tagliamento river. Trieste was taken by an amphibious expedition on 3 November. The Italian Eighth Army troops which had managed to cross the Piave were only able to communicate with the west bank by using swimmers. The swimmers were furnished by one of the most elite assault units in Italian history – the Arditi Corps, the Caimani del Piave ("Caimans of the Piave"). Eighty-two had been recruited by Captain Remo Pontecorvo Bacci. These specialized troops were created after analyzing the mistakes the year before at Caporetto. Carrying a resolza knife and two hand grenades, they were trained to remain in the powerful currents of the icy Piave for up to 16 hours; 50 died in the river during the campaign, a casualty rate of over 60%.[28] The Italian Twelfth Army, commanded by French General Jean Graziani, continued to advance, supported on the right by the Eighth Army.[citation needed]

At dawn on the 31st, the Italian Fourth Army resumed the offensive on Monte Grappa and this time was able to advance beyond the old Austrian positions towards Feltre. In the mountains and on the plain, the Allied armies pushed on until an armistice was arranged. Austria-Hungary lost about 30,000 killed and wounded and 300,000 prisoners (50,000 by 31 October; 100,000 by 1 November; 300,000 by 4 November).[16][18][unreliable source?] The Italians captured 448,000 Austrian-Hungarian soldiers (about one-third of the imperial-royal army), 24 of whom were generals,[31] 5,600 cannons and mortars, and 4,000 machine guns.[32]

The Italians suffered during the 10 days' struggle 37,461 casualties (dead and wounded) – 24,507 of them on Monte Grappa.[33][page needed] British casualties were 2,139, while the French lost 778 men.[16]

The Armistice of Villa Giusti was signed on 3 November at 15:20, to become effective 24 hours later, at 15:00 on 4 November.[citation needed]

Aftermath edit

Italian troops landing in Trieste, 3 November 1918

The Austrian command ordered its troops to cease hostilities on 3 November. Following the signing of the armistice, Austrian General Weber informed his Italian counterparts that the Imperial army had already laid down its weapons, and asked to cease combat immediately and to stop any further Italian advance. The proposal was sharply rejected by the Italian General Badoglio, who threatened to stop all negotiations and to continue the war. General Weber repeated the request.[34][page needed] Even before the order to cease hostilities, the Imperial Army had already started to collapse, beginning a chaotic retreat.[35][page needed] Italian troops continued their advance until 3 p.m. on 4 November. The occupation of all Tyrol, including Innsbruck, was completed by end of November.[36]

Under the terms of the Austrian-Italian Armistice of Villa Giusti, Austria-Hungary's forces were required to evacuate not only all territory occupied since August 1914 but also South Tirol, Tarvisio, the Isonzo Valley, Gorizia, Trieste, Istria, western Carniola, and Dalmatia. All German forces should be expelled from Austria-Hungary within 15 days or interned, and the Allies were to have free use of Austria-Hungary's internal communications. They were also obliged to allow the transit of the Entente armies, to reach Germany from the South.[33][page needed]

In order to block this, Bavarian troops marched into Tyrol. Austrian institutions protested as they were obliged to do according to the terms of the armistice. Apart from the blowing up of a bridge south of Brixen to slow down Italian advances no combats ensued. The Bavarians retreated as soon as Italian troops arrived. Thus they left Franzensfeste on 9 November and Gossensass on 10 November. The discipline of the soldiers also suffered from the fact that the German socialist Kurt Eisner had declared Bavaria to become the People's State of Bavaria, on 8 November 1918.[37] In early November Italian troops received orders to march towards Landeck and Innsbruck and by the end of November 1918, the Italian Army with 20,000–22,000 soldiers occupied North Tyrol.[38]

The battle marked the end of the First World War on the Italian front and secured the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire.[4][5][39] As mentioned above, on 31 October Hungary officially left the personal union with Austria. Other parts of the empire had declared independence, notably what later became Yugoslavia. The surrender of their primary ally was another major factor in the German Empire's decision that they could no longer continue the war.[4][40] On 30 October the Wilhelmshaven mutiny erupted, shortly afterwards the German Revolution of 1918–1919 started to spread from Kiel. Less than a week after the Austro-Hungarians, the Germans requested an armistice.[citation needed]

Assessment edit

German chief-of-staff Erich Ludendorff, a prominent World War I figure, stressed the importance of the battle, claiming that its outcome prompted the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, "dragging Germany in its fall".[4] In his memories Ludendorff wrote: "The Austro-Hungarian Army had completely dissolved as a result of the fighting in Upper Italy between the 24th October and the 4th November. Hostile forces were moving on Innsbruck. G.H.Q. took comprehensive measures for the protection of the southern frontier of Bavaria. In the Balkan theatre we held the Danube. We stood alone in the world. At the beginning of November the Revolution, the work of the Independent Socialists, broke out, starting in the navy."[41] German historian Ernst Nolte contended that Vittorio Veneto was "an encounter which had merely given the coup de grace to the abandoned army of an already crumbling state."[42]

Gallery edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b Burgwyn, H. James (1997). Italian foreign policy in the interwar period, 1918–1940. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 4. ISBN 0-275-94877-3.
  2. ^ a b Schindler, John R. (2001). Isonzo: The Forgotten Sacrifice of the Great War. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 303. ISBN 0-275-97204-6.
  3. ^ Mack Smith, Denis (1982). Mussolini. Knopf. p. 31. ISBN 0-394-50694-4.
  4. ^ a b c d e Paoletti, Ciro (2008). A Military History of Italy. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-275-98505-9. ... Ludendorff wrote: In Vittorio Veneto, Austria did not lose a battle, but lose the war and itself, dragging Germany in its fall. Without the destructive battle of Vittorio Veneto, we would have been able, in a military union with the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, to continue the desperate resistance through the whole winter, in order to obtain a less harsh peace, because the Allies were very fatigued. internet version
  5. ^ a b Marshall Cavendish Corporation (2002). History of World War I. Marshall Cavendish. pp. 715–716. ISBN 0-7614-7234-7. The Battle of Vittorio Veneto during October and November saw the Austro-Hungarian forces collapse in disarray. Thereafter the empire fell apart rapidly.
  6. ^ World War I: The Definitive Visual History from Sarajevo to Versailles. Penguin. 2014. p. 319. ISBN 978-1-4654-3490-6.
  7. ^ a b Stevenson, David (19 September 2011). With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918. Harvard University Press. p. 157. ISBN 978-0-674-06226-9. Retrieved 26 July 2015. According to the Commando supremo the Allies had 57 divisions and 7,700 guns.
  8. ^ Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire During the Great War 1914–1920, The War Office, pp. 356–357.
  9. ^ Mack Smith, Denis (1982). Mussolini. Knopf. p. 31. ISBN 0-394-50694-4.
  10. ^ Robert Gerwarth (2020). November 1918 The German Revolution. Oxford University Press. p. 65. ISBN 9780192606334.
  11. ^ Thompson, Mark. The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915–1919. Basic Books, 17 March 2009. p. 363.
  12. ^ Arnaldi, Girolamo (2005). Italy and Its Invaders. Harvard University Press. p. 194. ISBN 0-674-01870-2.
  13. ^ "Historical Maps of Italy: Italy, 1920 (London Geographical Institute)". Archived from the original on 7 November 2007. Retrieved 4 December 2017. Vittorio is shown due north of Venice, south of Belluno.
  14. ^ Ceva, Giulio (2005). Teatri di guerra. Comandi, soldati e scrittori nei conflitti europei (in Italian). Franco Angeli Editore. p. 142. ISBN 8846466802.
  15. ^ Caporetto is the Italian name of the town of Kobarid, today in Slovenia.
  16. ^ a b c Clodfelter 2017, p. 419.
  17. ^ Seton-Watson, Christopher (1967). Italy from Liberalism to Fascism, 1870–1925. Taylor & Francis. p. 500. ISBN 0-416-18940-7. Foch urged Diaz to exploit the success. Diaz, knowing his troops were weary and short of munitions, confined himself to local operations.
  18. ^ a b Duffy, Michael (2013). "The Battle of Vittorio Veneto, 1918". First World Retrieved 26 July 2015.[unreliable source?]
  19. ^ Preclík, Vratislav. Masaryk a legie (Masaryk and legions), váz. kniha, 219 str., vydalo nakladatelství Paris Karviná, Žižkova 2379 (734 01 Karviná) ve spolupráci s Masarykovým demokratickým hnutím (Masaryk Democratic Movement, Prague), 2019, ISBN 978-80-87173-47-3, pp. 101–02, 124–25, 128–29, 132, 140–58, 184–90.
  20. ^ War Monthly (Issue 31): Vittorio Veneto, pp. 33–34 by Peter Banyard
  21. ^ Pieropan, Gianni (2009). Storia della Grande Guerra sul fronte italiano. 1914–1918 (in Italian). Milano: Mursia. pp. 771–773. ISBN 978-88-425-2830-2.
  22. ^ "L'Esercito Italiano nel 1918" (in Italian). Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  23. ^ Wilks, John & Eileen, The British Army in Italy, Leo Cooper (1998), p.129
  24. ^ Congressional Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross and Distinguished Service Medals issued by the State Department April 6, 1917 – November 11, 1919, War Department:Washington DC, 1920, p. 954
  25. ^ Jewison, Glenn; Steiner, Jörg C. (2015). "Austro-Hungarian Army Higher Commands 1914–1918". Austro-Hungarian Land Forces 1848–1918. Archived from the original on 19 August 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  26. ^ Wilks p.136
  27. ^ War Monthly (Issue 31): Vittorio Veneto, p. 35 by Peter Banyard.
  28. ^ a b Peter Banyard. "Vittorio Veneto" War Monthly, Issue 31, pp. 37-38
  29. ^ Stevenson (2011), p.160.
  30. ^ Gooch, p. 97
  31. ^ Pier Paolo Cervone, Vittorio Veneto, l'ultima battaglia, Milano, Mursia, 1993.
  32. ^ Indro Montanelli; Mario Cervi, Due secoli di guerre, VII, Novara, Editoriale Nuova, 1981.
  33. ^ a b Cervone, Pier Paolo (1994). Vittorio Veneto, l'ultima battaglia (in Italian). Milano: Mursia (Gruppo Editoriale). ISBN 88-425-1775-5.
  34. ^ Stato Maggiore dell'Esercito (1988). L'esercito italiano nella Grande Guerra (Tomo 1, 2 & 2bis) (in Italian). Vol. 5. Roma: Ufficio Storico.
  35. ^ Weber, Fritz (1959). Das Ende der alten Armee; Österreich-Ungarns Zusammenbruch (in German). Salzburg: Verlag Das Bergland-Buch. Split in two the Imperial army collapsed, starting a chaotic retiring, since October 28.
  36. ^ Low, Alfred D. (1974). The Anschluss Movement, 1918–1919, and the Paris Peace Conference. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. p. 296. ISBN 0-87169-103-5.
  37. ^ Marion Dotter, Stefan Wedrac (in German): Der hohe Preis des Friedens - Die Geschichte der Teilung Tirols, 1918-1922. Tyrolia-Verlag Innsbruck, Wien 3. edition 2019. pp. 44–49.
  38. ^ Di Michele, Andrea. Trento, Bolzano e Innsbruck: L'Occupazione Militare Italiana del Tirolo (1918–1920) (PDF) (in Italian). pp. 436–37. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 August 2017. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
  39. ^ World War I: The Definitive Visual History from Sarajevo to Versailles. Penguin. 21 April 2014. p. 319. ISBN 978-1-4654-3490-6.
  40. ^ Robbins, Keith (2002). The First World War. Oxford University Press. p. 79. ISBN 0-19-280318-2.
  41. ^ Erich Ludendorff (1919): "My war memories", p.765
  42. ^ Nolte, Ernst (1969). Three Faces of Fascism: Action Française, Italian fascism, National Socialism. New York: Mentor. p. 234.

Bibliography edit

  • Clodfelter, M. (2017). Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492–2015 (4th ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 978-0786474707.
  • Gooch, John (2014). The Italian Army and the First World War. Cambridge University Press.[ISBN missing]
  • Wilks, John; Wilks, Eileen (1998). The British Army in Italy 1917–1918. Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-0850526080.